Yifan Hou is Women World Chess Champion! (UPDATE)

Yifan Hou defeats Ruan Lufei after four tiebreak games

WWCC Hou Yifan square

Yifan Hou is Women World Chess Champion 2010! The Chinese prodigy defeated her teammate Ruan Lufei after 4 classical and 4 tiebreak games of exciting chess. In the classical games Yifan Hou took early advantage by winning game 2 with black, but Ruan Lufei came back in the last moment to equalize the score. The tiebreak started with a draw which Yifan Hou could turn into a win with precise play, but that did not affect her play afterwards, as she won tiebreak games 2 and 4 to claim the World Champion Title.


Hou Yifan became the youngest ever World Chess Champion in history (men’s or women’s) by winning the Women’s World Championship in Hatay, Turkey at the age of 16.

Turkey is a country that brings particular luck and energy to Hou Yifan. She won the Ataturk Chess tournament a full point ahead of competition there. In October 2007, she competed at the 12th European Club Cup in Kemer, Turkey on board two for team Southern Ural Cheliabinsk.

In August 2008 she competed in the World Junior Chess Championship held at Gazientep, Turkey where she competed as the only female in the boy’s section for the first time in her career and was the 16th seed on the entrant’s list. Hou finished joint 3rd-7th on 9/13 (+6 =6 -1) achieving a performance rating of 2661, in the process obtaining her second confirmed GM norm.

At the age of 12, she became and still holds the record for being the youngest ever player to participate at the FIDE Women’s World Championship (Yekaterinburg 2006), and at the Chess Olympiad (Torino 2006).

She achieved the titles of Woman FIDE Master in January 2004, Woman Grandmaster in January 2007, International Master in September 2008, for reaching the final of the Women’s World Championship.

Earlier, in June 2007, she became China’s youngest ever National Women’s Champion, and in September 2008 she became the youngest ever finalist for the Women’s World Championship title.

Hou Yifan became the youngest ever female in history (at the age of 14 years 6 months) to qualify for the title of Grandmaster. This happened in 2008 and ever since her chess star is shining on the horizon and all women top lists.

In the most recent (November 2010) FIDE rating list her world rankings are: the no. 1 girl player, the no. 3 female player, and the no. 2 player of either sex born in 1994 or later.

Despite having full 45 articles on Chessdom.com dedicated to Yifan Hou and her success at multiple events, it would have never been possible to follow her career without the hard work of multiple chess enthusiasts updating her Wikipedia page on a regular basis.

Career of Hou Yifan

Hou started playing chess regularly at the age of 6, but became fascinated with the game when she was 3 years old. “I took up chess because I was fascinated by the pieces – I just liked it. In the future, I want to be a professional chess player or maybe study to be a doctor”, she said in 2007.

Hou’s father, Hou Xuejian, a magistrate, often took his young daughter to a bookstore after dinner. He noticed that the little girl liked to stare at glass chess pieces behind the window. He later bought his daughter her first chess set. Only weeks later, the 3-year-old was able to beat her father and grandmother. In 1999, her father found a chess mentor for his 5-year-old daughter.

The teacher, IM Tong Yuanming, was a member of China’s national chess team. Two weeks later, Tong told Hou Xuejian that his girl was an unusual talent, showing “strong confidence, distinguished memory, calculating ability and fast reaction.” The young girl’s talent impressed many people.

Ye Jiangchuan, chief coach of the Chinese National Chess Teams (men’s and women’s teams), believes that Hou has a bright future. When she played against Ye for the first time in 2003, the chess master was surprised that the 9-year-old could identify almost all of his weak moves. “Then I knew she was an exceptional genius”, Ye said. That year, Hou became the youngest member of the national team and won first place at the World Youth Championship for girls under age 10. In June 2007, she became China’s youngest ever national champion.

She was admitted to the National Chess Center, an academy for young talented players from all over the country, in Beijing when she was 10, and has leading Chinese grandmasters Ye Jiangchuan and Yu Shaoteng as her trainers.

In order to better support her chess career, her family relocated to Beijing in 2003, leaving a small town about 12 hours by train from the capital. Hou’s mother, a former nurse, accompanies her daughter on the international tournament circuit.

She is homeschooled and lists her interests as reading and studying, and her favorite chess player as Bobby Fischer.

Chess writer Leonard Barden has said that she could rival Judit Polgar as the best ever female player.

Hou Yifan in 2003

Hou Yifan’s first major tournament was on August 31 – September 12, 2003 at the Chinese Team Chess Championship (Men’s) in Tianjin. She scored 3/7 and had a 2246 performance rating.

Her first international tournament brought early success when she came first (9½/11; +8 =3 -0) in the girl’s under-10 section of the World Youth Championship in Halkidiki, Greece in 23 October-2 November 2003.

In November (15th-26th), she made her debut in the National Women’s Chess Championship, held at Shanwei, Guangdong. She finished in 14th place with 3½/9. Her performance rating was 2202.

Hou Yifan in 2004

On 1 January 2004, she received her first International FIDE rating of 2168, which automatically qualified her for the title of Woman FIDE Master (>2100 Elo points).

In April, she competed at the Chinese Team Chess Championship (Women’s) in Jinan, Shandong. She scored 1½/7 having faced an average opposition rating (Rc) of 2316.

In 3–14 November, she came in third place (9/11; +8 =2 -1, tied for first on points) and won bronze this time in the boy’s under-10 section of the World Youth Championship, held in Heraklio, Crete.

At the 11th Asian Women’s Championship that took place in Beirut, Lebanon 4–11 December 2004, she came 11th with a score of 4½/9 (+4 =1 -4; TPR 2278). Wang Yu of China won the event with 6½/9.

Hou Yifan in 2005

In February, she competed at the 4th Aeroflot Open (Group C) in Moscow, where she scored 2/5.

In April, she came to the notice of the international chess community for her fifth place and a score of 7/11 (+6 =2 -3) (tied for fourth) at the 3 Arrows Cup 2005 ladies tournament in Jinan, China. In that tournament, she defeated international master Almira Skripchenko and achieved a performance rating of 2393.

From 28 June – 6 July at the 2nd China-France Youth Match, which took place in Shenzhen, Guangdong, Hou Yifan scored 3/8 (+2 =2 -4). The Chinese team (Zhou Jianchao, Zhao Jun, Zhao Xue and Hou) won the match 19-13.

In 18–29 July at the World Youth Chess Championship in Belfort, France, Hou Yifan came 5th in the Boy’s Under-12 Section with 8/11. Earlier in the month at the Festival Open International des Jeunes in Saint-Lo, France she came second out of 75 players with 6/8, behind Wen Yang.

In October, she managed to qualify for the World Women’s Chess Championship to be held in March 2006. Only rated 2220 and ranked women’s number 28 in her own country, she did so by winning the Chinese Women’s Zonal (3.5) tournament, ahead of a group of well known Chinese players. She scored 6/9 points with a performance rating of 2401.

The sixth World Team Chess Championship was staged in Beersheva, Israel in 31 October-11 November. China fielded two teams – the men’s and women’s, which was only the second time in the championship history where a women’s team competed in what has traditionally been a male team event. This was Hou Yifan’s first major team tournament and she was the youngest participant there at 11 years of age. She played as second reserve and finished with 0/3. The Chinese women’s team drew one match and lost all their others (+0 =1 -7) finishing last. The tournament was won by Russia, with China (men’s) coming in second and Armenia third.

In December Hou came second at the China Women Selective Tournament in Beijing for the 37th Chess Olympiad to be held in May–June 2006 in Turin, Italy. She scored 16½/28 and gained a whopping 121 elo-points. She made the Olympiad team with Wang Yu and Shen Yang, the other top three finishers.

Hou Yifan in 2006

Hou proved that her performance at the 3 Arrows Cup 2005 was not a fluke by reaching the third round (the last 16) of the Women’s World Chess Championship in March 2006. Despite being rated 2269 and seeded 56th out of 64 players, she defeated IM Nadezhda Kosintseva (rated 2480) of Russia 1½-½ in the first round, then the former 2000 European champion WGM Natalia Zhukova (2432) of Ukraine 2-0 in the 2nd round, but lost to IM Nino Khurtsidze (2430) of Georgia 0-2 in the third to post a decent performance rating of 2504.

In May–June 2006, China came third winning bronze at the 37th Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. Hou Yifan at her Olympiad debut confirmed her talent with a score of 11/13 (+10, =2, -1), all played on the third board, and finished with a performance rating of 2596.For her winning percentage of 84.6%, she won a silver medal for fourth (reserve) board performance, and her performance rating of 2596 was the third highest overall.

The Chinese Championships for men and women took place in Wuxi, Jiangsu 25 June – 6 July 2006. Ni Hua took the men’s title and Li Ruofan the women’s. Hou Yifan came fourth in the women’s category V (2369) event with a score of 7/11 (+5 =4 -2) and a performance rating of 2477.

In July–August, she had a lacklustre performance at what has been traditionally the strongest women’s tournament – the North Urals Cup in Krasnoturinsk, Russia. Although seeded third, she failed to win a game scoring 3/9 (+0 =6 -3) with a performance rating of 2357. She finished 8th out of 10 players.

The China-Russia Summit Match saw two double round robin Scheveningen format events, one for men and one for women (cat. VIII (2444)), taking place in Ergun, Mongolia 10–20 August 2006. Russia won the men’s event 26½-23½ but China won the women’s section 28-22, therefore in the combined standings China beat Russia 51½-48½. Hou Yifan was the highest scoring female player on tiebreak with 6½/10 (+5 =3 -2).

China and France played for the Trophée MULTICOMS in Paris 4–9 September 2006. This was also a Scheveningen team match with six men and three women in the teams. France edged out China 20-16 in the men’s event. The women’s section was a complete mismatch in terms of Elo ratings in favour of the Chinese and they confirmed this over the board winning 12½-5½. The overall result was China 28½ France 25½. Hou Yifan was again the highest scoring female player with 5/6 and a performance rating of 2498.

In October in Yerevan, Armenia at the World Junior Chess Championship (Girl’s section) she went on to take second place on tiebreak with a score of 9/12 (+7 =4 -2; tied for first on points) behind her compatriot Shen Yang. Her rating performance was 2469.

At the start of 2007 in January, Hou achieved a respectable fifth place in Group C (Cat. 10, 2486) of the Corus Chess Tournament. She scored 7/13 (+4 =6 -3) with a performance rating of 2513. It was at this tournament when she earned her WGM title, formally conferred by FIDE in late January 2007. She achieved her WGM norms at the following tournaments:

* 2005 Zonal 3.5 Women’s Championship in Beijing (October 20–25, 2005); score 6/9

* 2006 37th Chess Olympiad in Turin (May 21-June 4, 2006); score 7/9

* 2006 Chinese Championship (Women’s) in Wuxi (June 25-July 6, 2006); score 7/11

In her first A1 Group event at the Aeroflot Open in February 2007 a few weeks before her 13th birthday, she started well with two wins out of two defeating first Russian IM, Nikita Vitiugov rated 2604, and then the former (2001) European Champion, GM Emil Sutovsky of Israel rated 2629. However in the third round she was defeated by the Russian Championship runnerup, Dmitry Jakovenko, and managed only one draw in her next five games. She rallied in the final round with a victory against the strong Greek grandmaster, Vasilios Kotronias and finished with a respectable 3½/9.

In March, at the 1st Ruy Lopez International Festival (cat. XV (2607)) in Zafra, the birth place of Ruy López de Segura, Hou suffered a bad performance finishing in last place with 2/7 (+1 =2 -4). Her performance rating was 2462.

In April Hou Yifan came second at the China Women Selective Tournament in Ningbo for the 2007 Asian Indoor Games to be held in October. She scored 8/14 (+6 =4 -4).

In 1–11 May 2007, in Dagomys at the 8th Russian Team Chess Championship (Women’s), she played for Southern Ural Chelyabinsk on board one and scored 6½/10 (+5 =3 -2). In 19–30 May 2007 in Ekaterinburg, the 1st World Women’s Team Chess Championship was held. Hou Yifan was part of the winning China national team that also included Zhao Xue, Ruan Lufei, Shen Yang, and Huang Qian. Hou Yifan played in every round on board two and scored 7½/9 (+7 =1 -1) winning the gold medal for that board. Her performance rating was 2559.

In June 2007, she won her first Chinese Women’s Chess Championship in Chongqing, breaking WGM Qin Kanying’s—who won her first title at the age of 14 in 1988—record as the youngest champion with a score of 9/11 (+7 =4 -0). Second and third place went to Zhao Xue and Shen Yang, respectively.

In July, she improved on the previous year’s performance at the North Urals Cup in Krasnoturinsk, finishing in 7th place out of 10 players. She scored 4/9 (+3 =2 -4) with a performance rating of 2436. The tournament was won by Zhu Chen and second placed was Zhao Xue.

In 4–15 August, she competed in what was then her strongest closed tournament – the 5th Győrgy Marx Memorial (Cat. 14, 2582) in Paks, Hungary. Being the lowest rated player and the only non-Grandmaster (out of Pentala Harikrishna, Peter Acs, Csaba Balogh, Ferenc Berkes and Viktor Korchnoi), she finished in last place in the double round robin event with 3/10 (+1 =4 -5; TPR 2444).

At the UK-China Match in Liverpool 3–9 September 2007, China had a comfortable 28-20 win against the UK team. Hou Yifan competed in the men’s team and scored 2½/6 (+1 =3 -2) with a performance rating of 2540. The average rating of her opposition (Rc) was 2598.

In late September, she came first at the 2007 Chinese Women’s Zonal (3.5) tournament in Tianjin with a score of 8/9 (+7 =2 -0).

In October 2007, she competed at the 12th European Club Cup in Kemer, Turkey on board two for team Southern Ural Cheliabinsk, which came in at fourth place in the women’s tournament. She came 5th in the individual women’s standings with a score of 5/7 (+3 =4 -0) and a performance rating of 2547.

From October 26 to November 3, she competed for Team China at the 2nd Asian Indoor Games in Macau. The national team won team gold in the classic chess mixed team event with 11 match points (18½ game points out of 24) The Chinese team were Zhao Xue, Xu Yuhua, Hou Yifan, Wang Hao, Ni Hua and Bu Xiangzhi. Hou Yifan also won an individual gold medal for her board two display with a score of 5½/6 (+5 =1 -0; 91.7%) and a performance rating of 2596.

Hou Yifan in 2007

This year she began a concerted attempt to become a grandmaster (GM).

In the January Corus 2008 chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Hou competed in Group B where she finished in a tie for 7-10th place (9th by tiebreak) achieving 6/13 (+3 -4 =6) with a performance rating of 2598 and victories over three grandmasters, including a 23 move win over Nigel Short.

In February 2008, Hou gained her first Grandmaster norm (GM norm) with a performance rating of 2605 at the Aeroflot Open in Moscow by finishing in 31st place with a score of 4½/9 (+2 =5 -2).

This was followed in March 2008 with a victory at the 1st Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament (cat. IX (2461)) in Istanbul, Turkey where she finished a point ahead of the rest of the field on 7/9 with a tournament performance rating of 2674. She did not lose a single game having won 5 games and drawn 4. Her victory in this tournament also provided her a GM norm that was not used in her official grandmaster title application. This GM norm was conditional on FIDE ratifying then WGM Zhao Xue’s attainment of her GM title.

In April 2008, she competed in Mérida, Spain at the 2nd Ruy Lopez Chess Festival tournament. In the category XV (2616) round robin event she failed to gain a GM norm after finishing in 7th place out of 8 players with 2/7 (+1, =2, -4) and a rating performance of 2467.

In May–June 2008, she became the Chinese Women’s Champion for the second time running with 9/11 points (+7 =4 -0) in Beijing and having a performance of 2599.

At the July 2008 First Saturday GM Tournament in Budapest, Hou Yifan was the top seed but came in second place with 9/12 narrowly missing a GM norm by half a point. Her performance rating was 2574.

In August 2008 she competed in the World Junior Chess Championship held at Gazientep, Turkey where she competed as the only female in the boy’s section for the first time in her career and was the 16th seed on the entrant’s list. Hou finished joint 3rd-7th on 9/13 (+6 =6 -1) achieving a performance rating of 2661, in the process obtaining her second confirmed GM norm.

In September 2008, FIDE referred to her as a “GM-elect”, indicating that her Atatürk norm had been confirmed. This means Hou Yifan qualified for the title of grandmaster in August at the age of 14 years 6 months 2 days, making her one of the youngest grandmasters in history, and the youngest female. She is also one of the very few players to achieve the Grandmaster title without first gaining the International Master title, and the first female player to do so.

She competed in her second Women’s World Chess Championship in August – September 2008 where she finished as runner-up. She qualified by being one of the six highest rated players from the average of the July 2006-January 2007 period. In this 2008 Championship knockout tournament held in Nalchik, Russia, she was seeded no. 3 out of 64 players. She defeated WGM Mona Khaled (Egypt) 2-0 in the first round, and WGM Bathuyang Mongontuul (Mongolia) 2-0 in the second. In third round, she had to go to rapid playoffs to eventually beat IM Elena Sedina (Italy) 3-1 (1-1, 2-0). In the quarterfinals she won against Armenian IM Lilit Mkrtchian by 1½-½. In the semifinals she defeated Indian GM Humpy Koneru, the no. 2 seed, by 4-2 (1-1, 1-1, 2-0). She lost the final to Alexandra Kosteniuk by 2½-1½. In this tournament she became the youngest ever finalist for the Women’s World Championship title. By reaching the final, she automatically gained the International Master (IM) title and a “runner-up 9-game grandmaster norm”, her fourth GM norm overall.

As a member of the Chinese team at the 1st World Mind Sports Games in Beijing on 3–18 October, she won the bronze medal in the Women’s Individual Blitz event, the gold medal in the Mixed Pairs Rapid event (with Ni Hua), the silver medal in the Women’s Teams Blitz event, and the gold medal in the Women’s Teams Rapid event.

She played in the Cap d’Agde Rapid tournament that was held from October 24 to November 1, losing to former world champion Anatoly Karpov in a tiebreaker match at the end of the qualifying stage, despite winning the second tiebreak game.

At the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden from 12 to 25 November, she played at no. 1 board in the Chinese women’s team. Although her team did not win a prize, she had some consolation in winning an individual board prize of third place. She played in every round and her final result was 7½/11 (+5, =5, -1), performance rating of 2563.

At the 79th FIDE Congress, held on 16–26 November 2008 in Dresden, Germany, her GM title was approved making her the 27th Grandmaster of China. Her three approved GM norms were:

* Aeroflot Open Tournament A1 in Moscow, February 2008; score 4½/9 (requirement=4½ pts)

* World Junior Chess Championship in Gaziantep, August 2008; score 9/13 (requirement=8 pts)

* World Women’s Chess Championship in Nalchik, September 2008; reached the final round (equivalent to a 9-game GM norm)

Hou Yifan in 2009

Hou Yifan competed in the Grandmaster Group B of the 71st Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, from January 16 to February 1, 2009. She was seeded 12th out of 14 players and finished in 9th to 10th place with a performance rating of 2620.

On March 7–19, she competed at the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Tournament in Istanbul, scoring 8/11 (+6=4-1) with a 2648 performance and finishing third.

From May 12–23, she competed at the 8th Asia Continental Chess Championship at the Subic Exhibition and Convention Center, Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Olongapo City, Philippines.She scored 7½/11 with a 2640 performance and finished 7th out of 86 on tiebreak. By finishing in the top 10 she qualified for the 2009 World Cup.

In 9–15 August at the Jubilee Open, Zürich, she won the “best female prize” by coming joint 17th with 6½/9.

In 19 August-1 September at the NH Hotels Risings Stars vs Experienced, Amsterdam, she finished with a score of 3½/10.

Hou Yifan in 2003

In January, she finished with 4½/9 at the Moscow Open.

In February, she finished with 4/9 at the Aeroflot Open.

In April, she won the third Kuala Lumpur Open.

In August she won the 2010 Women’s Grand Prix in Mongolia.

In November, she won the women’s individual gold medal in the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. She finished with 8½/9 and with a performance rating of 2798. She won another gold medal from the women’s team event, representing China as the first board, along with her team mates Ju Wenjun, Zhao Xue, Huang Qian and Wang Yu, beating Uzbekistan 2½-1½ in the final.

In December she won the Women’s World Chess Championship 2010 in Hatay, Turkey, making her the youngest women’s world champion in history. Her compatriot Ruan Lufei was her opponent in the finals, where the score was tied 2-2. Hou won the title by beating Ruan 3-1 during the rapid playoffs.

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